December 21, 2004
Dodge Holiday Classic

Mariucci Arena • Minneapolis, Minn.

 Holiday Tournament Preview

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

Holiday Tournament Previews
Badger Hockey Showdown
Florida College Classic
Great Lakes Invitational
Ledyard National Bank Classic
Ohio Hockey Classic
UConn Hockey Classic
Wells Fargo Denver Cup


Wednesday, December 22
Harvard vs. Northern Michigan, 6 p.m. ET
Minnesota vs. Merrimack, 9 p.m. ET

Thursday, December 23
Minnesota’s game will be at 9 p.m. ET; the other game, regardless of whether it is the championship or third-place game, will be at 6 p.m. ET


The rematch of the 2003 NCAA championship game was a repeat of sorts, with Minnesota jumping out to a 3-0 lead and beating New Hampshire 4-2 despite 44 saves by Michael Ayers. The Wildcats used just 19 shots on goal to beat Miami (Ohio) 3-1 in the tournament opener, while the Gophers got to the title game via a 9-0 rout of Princeton.


If, before the tournament starts in Minneapolis, the combatants in the opening game drive to St. Paul and pause for a moment of silence at the corner of West Seventh and Kellogg, it could be fitting inspiration for the Crimson and the Wildcats. The site of the since-demolished St. Paul Civic Center (now home to the Xcel Energy Center), is where both teams won the only NCAA hockey titles in their history. Harvard beat Minnesota 4-3 there in overtime in 1989, and two years later Northern Michigan needed just three overtimes to best Boston University 8-7.


The Wednesday night game between top-ranked Minnesota and unranked Merrimack features one of the most talented Minnesotans in college hockey, and he doesn’t wear maroon and gold. Warriors defenseman Bryan Schmidt, who hails from Bloomington, Minn., somehow slipped the grasp of WCHA recruiters and ended up in North Andover. Schmidt is one of the best two-way players in Hockey East and will see plenty of ice time in his return to his home state. That, and the anticipated return of offensive star Brent Gough, who suffered a broken arm early in the season, gives the upset-minded Warriors the ammo they need to at least be competitive.

The tournament opener features three of the more intriguing goalies (and three of the best goalie names) in college hockey, with Harvard’s Dov Grumet-Morris in one net and either Tuomas Tarkki or Bill Zaniboni in the other. With two teams that like to move the puck playing on a big ice sheet, two of the three will have lots of work to do.


The opener should be a fun one, with two offensive-minded teams frolicking on Mariucci Arena’s massive ice sheet. The Wildcats are used to Olympic-size ice, so they should feel right at home, which could be vital for a team that is undefeated at home this season. Thus far they've been mediocre on the road (3-4-3).

Harvard is also playing a more wide-open brand of hockey than Crimson fans have been used to seeing in recent years and has been a pleasant surprise in the ECACHL. And with a good-sized contingent of fans in attendance courtesy of Harvard’s large and active alumni association in Minnesota, the folks from Cambridge should be comfortable. We’ll pick the easterners to prevail in the opener.

As intriguing as the Schmidt’s “local boy makes good” story would be in the nightcap, and as vulnerable as the Gophers defense may look with two of their top blueliners playing at the World Juniors, and as tournament-tested as the Warriors are (playing in four tournaments this season) we’re not crazy enough to pick against the top-ranked team in the nation when it’s playing on home ice. So look for the Gophers and the Crimson in the final.

By Thursday night, when the temperature is supposed to be something like
minus-117 in Minneapolis, we might be more prone to pick a shocker, especially with a battle-tested veteran like Grumet-Morris in goal for the visitors. So we’ll go out on a limb and say that Thursday (just like the first Tuesday in November was) will be a good day for guys from Massachusetts in Minnesota, with Merrimack claiming third place and the Crimson winning the title in overtime.

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